Wednesday, November 2, 2011

History can be helpful

I recently moved to Great Falls, Montana this summer, which – for those of you who don't know – is on the Lewis and Clark trail. Great Falls is the famous falls that Lewis and Clark had to go around while traveling on the Missouri River.

It is here, in the place where they faced their greatest obstacle (not even the Rocky Mountains challenged the expedition as much as the falls) that the Lewis and Clark interpretive center is located.

Black Eagle Falls, the first and smallest
My mother and I visited the center, where I learned more about the amazing journey those men took. I also got to travel up to the falls and see the magnitude of what they truly were.

As I stared at the beautiful waterfalls, which now do have dams that make them no less impressive, I started to imagine what it would be like if I'd been in Lewis and Clark's shoes. What would it have been like to face such a challenge.

Rainbow Falls - the second of the series of five
It is in this way that history can help your writing. Putting yourself in the shoes of others who have faced such daunting tasks such as that can help fuel your understanding of the tasks your characters face. Think of how much harder going around a waterfall would have been back then. Then think about how you can make things harder for your characters.

All of this will make for a better story.

So tell me – are you fans of history? Have you ever thought about applying history in some way to your writing outside of writing historical fiction? What amazing pieces of history do you have in your neck of the woods?